A Firsthand Look at Some Red Sox and Twins Prospects

I am Call to the Pen’s resident prospects expert, so to speak, but, being a college student, I don’t exactly have time to go around the country and watch everyone play. Instead, I rely on video clips, scouting reports, and statistics to reach conclusions about a player.

Yesterday night, though, I did get the chance to be one of a record 8,497 crowd at New Britain Stadium as I watched the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox AA) defeat the New Britain Rock Cats (Twins AA) 8-5. I just so happened to attend on a day that saw top Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly face off against Deolis Guerra, who was once a key member of the Johan Santana trade.

I thought I’d offer my thoughts on what Kelly, Guerra, and several other key players in that game looked like, for the benefit of Red Sox fans, Twins fans, and other fans who care about the minors.

So, follow me after the jump for some of my very own scouting reports.

Deolis Guerra, New Britain, RHP–Jesus, this guy is huge. He’s listed at 6’5″ 250, and he might be even bigger than that. Everyone else on the mound looked like they were 5’9″ or so because I got used to Guerra’s height.

The righty entered the season with Baseball America criticizing his fastball, which they said sits around 89-90 mph, and his curveball, but praising his changeup.

It looks like the Twins have been aggressive in getting Guerra to use the curve more to speed up its development. He probably used it about 30% of the time last night. It was in the 75-77 mph range, showing decent movement, and Guerra had enough command of the pitch to get a strike when he needed it. It looks like he’s tightened the breaker up into a solid-average pitch, and it’s a big reason that he’s got a 3.20 ERA this year.

The changeup looked good, although he didn’t use it too much, probably to work on the curveball. The changeup was around 78 mph with great action as it crossed the plate.

Guerra’s fastball was a bit faster than BA claimed, sitting at 91-93 all night. It had decent movement but nothing special.

Mechanically, Guerra’s not pristine, but he isn’t horrible either. His delivery has some moving parts in it, and at his size, he’s got to be very careful to repeat his motion, but it’s working for him. He was impressive in consistently locating the ball down in the zone rather than working high and leaving himself susceptible to the long ball.

Guerra doesn’t look athletic, but he did surprise me by snagging a liner to his glove side.

With the average heater, solid-average curve, and plus changeup, he could turn into a solid mid-rotation guy in the end, particularly since he’s only 21. He’s certainly advanced for his age.

Cole DeVries, New Britain, RHP–Maybe I just caught him on the wrong day, but DeVries was awful.

The 6’2″ DeVries looked tiny on the mound after Guerra left. He was considered a sleeper prospect a few years back as a starter, and actually spent some time in Triple-A as a reliever this year, but DeVries made a bad situation worse in a seventh inning that saw 12 Portland batters come to the plate. He walked one and allowed four hits in just 2/3 of an inning.

DeVries showed a fastball in the 88-90 range that was way too straight, and Portland hitters bashed it around. He has a slow curve in the 70-73 range with plus break, but struggled to command the pitch and wouldn’t use it unless he was ahead in the count, making him a one-pitch guy with the fastball.

He’s got a 6.56 ERA this year. Not surprising.

Matt Williams, New Britain, RHP–Williams is a 23-year-old Aussie reliever listed at 6’1″, but he looked shorter (maybe it’s the Guerra effect, maybe not).

Mechanically, he’s a mess. He’s got a high legkick out of the stretch that makes him an easy target for basestealers, and he takes a short stride to the plate before landing on a stiff front leg. Not good at all.

Stuff-wise, he’s another soft-tosser, with a high-80′s heater and a slurvy breaking ball.

He’s got a 6.94 ERA this year, and I’m not surprised. He didn’t impress me at all.

Michael Allen, New Britain, RHP–Just when I thought all the New Britain relievers were terrible (save for the epically awesome Loek Van Mil, who unfortunately did not pitch), Allen came on. Another 23-year-old righty, Allen’s a 6’3″ 220 pitcher who looked very athletic on the mound, getting good extension on his delivery.

Allen ran his fastball up in the 92-94 range and showed an average breaking ball to go with it. He’s got a 7.84 ERA on the season, but I see him as a much better prospect than DeVries or Williams because his stuff and mechanics or better, he’s more athletic, and he’s a bigger pitcher with more potential to be a bullpen workhorse.

Ben Revere, New Britain, OF–I happened to catch a rare Revere 0-fer, but he made contact when he swung, looked fast, hustled, and got robbed of an infield hit by the first-base umpire. He looked good in center field.

Chris Cates, New Britain, SS–Cates is the smallest player in pro ball, at 5’3″, and consequently can’t hit a lick, but his strike zone is so small that Casey Kelly had to take 3-4 mph off his heater to control it enough to get it in Cates’ strike zone. He also got hit by a Santo Luis pitch late in the game (what are the odds?). Still, Cates isn’t just a novelty. On a field in which half the players looked completely inept defensively, the athletic Cates really stood out as an MLB-caliber defender at short. With his package of good plate discipline and good defense, I wonder if he could be another Augie Ojeda type. Cates also hustles like crazy and can jump much higher than you’d think.

Erik Lis, New Britain, 1B/DH–So this is why they call it a “designated hitter.” Lis isn’t that big, but he looked shockingly slow, and you can see why he DHs most days. Still, the kid can hit. He’s got the old-school no-batting-gloves approach (take from that what you will), doesn’t swing at bad pitches, and, unlike most husky DH types, doesn’t overswing, so he just rips liners rather than going for the all-or-nothing, homer-or-strikeout approach. His swing has some holes, and I don’t think he has quite enough bat to hold down a big league DH job, but he’s nice depth at least.

Joe Benson, New Britain, OF–Like Cates, Benson was one of the few good defenders in the game, showing good range to both sides and a cannon arm. He also took a Casey Kelly pitch off the right field wall and got a triple out of it, showing great opposite-field power and speed. He did strike out twice, though. Benson showed good skill; he just needs to get more consistent.

Steve Singleton, New Britain, 2B–Singleton hit the night’s only homer, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He has a nice, compact swing geared for liners. His hands and arm at second looked passable but unspectacular, but his range was solid. At 24, he’s old for the level, but could be a utilty guy.

Yancarlos Ortiz, New Britain, 3B–Ortiz misplayed the first three balls he touched at third, and another one later in the game. He has a compact enough swing to consistently make contact and spray some liners, but he doesn’t incorporate his lower body enough, instead just crouching and letting his arms swing. This results in no power, which doesn’t cut it at third, especially since he was terrible at third. At 25, he’s just filler.

Casey Kelly, Portland, RHP–I came into the game a big believer in Casey Kelly, and I left with a bad impression.

I’ll start with the positives. It’s clear Kelly played shortstop as an amateur, and he’s very athletic on the mound. He also has very good command of a 90-94 mph fastball with solid movement.

Beyond that, it’s all a bunch of question marks. Kelly has a Dana Eveland-esque arhythmic delivery at which his hands are moving at a different pace than his lower body, which means he essentially has to slow down in the middle of his delivery and wait for his body to get in sync. This may or may not add some deception, but it certainly costs him leverage on the mound and makes his mechanics tough to repeat, meaning he loses his release point frequently. He’s athletic enough to repeat the delivery better than someone like Eveland, but it’s still very poor from a repetition standpoint, although not as much from an injury risk standpoint.

Kelly looks like he throws two distinct breaking pitches, a slurve with some bite that he adds and subtracts from in the 77-83 range, and a slower true curveball that really is just a show pitch. He also threw a few changeups, which looked okay.

I hate to say it, but Kelly looked nothing like a top prospect. He looked like a guy with an ERA over 5.00, which, incidentally, he has. The season-long struggles mean this wasn’t just a “me catching him on a bad day” sort of thing.

It was really odd to see a guy who was half-Eveland and half-Roy Oswalt on the mound. You had the fastball command and athleticism of Oswalt, which is a great place to start, but everything else rated from average to disastrous.

The good news? Kelly’s just 20 and in Double-A, and if he alters his delivery to something simpler, his athleticism will allow him to repeat it better and get ahead of hitters more consistently. Right now, though, he looks like a back-of-the-rotation starter. He gave up just six hits in five innings, but one was a homer, one was an opposite-field triple off the wall, another was a double, and several other hitters ripped liners and deep fly balls off Kelly.

Santo Luis, Portland, RHP–A big righty that looks a lot like Armando Benitez, Luis has had a good year, and he had a good game last night. But he’s a 26-year-old in his first year of Double-A. The Red Sox thought enough of him to claim him off waivers from the White Sox earlier this year, putting him on the 40-man roster despite being way old for his level.

Because of this, I expected to see a rocket arm out of Luis Saturday night. Instead, I found he has a good arm, but nothing particularly intimdating.

Luis is clearly raw, as he’s got bad mechanics that include a painfully stiff landing. He’s inconsistent with his delivery and overthrows with two strikes, causing him to spin violently off the mound, a la Bartolo Colon, in those situations, and leaving him completely unable to field his position. He also lacks much of a breaking pitch, as he threw a 78-82 mph slurve with little bite.

Beyond that, though, he’s pretty solid. His fastball is at 90-94, which isn’t the upper-90′s gas I was expecting, but it’s decent. He’s also got what looked like a splitter in the 83-84 mph range that looked like a good second pitch. Luis throws more strikes than one would expect given his size and delivery issues.

He could be a decent middle reliever in the bigs.

Bryson Cox, Portland, RHP–Cox came in and threw a bunch of 88-90 mph fastballs, and he wasn’t throwing strikes, as he walked three of the seven batters he faced. He has a pretty low arm slot, maybe low three-quarters, and some deception in his delivery. He showed an okay slider but threw the fastball almost exclusively.

Cox has okay mechanics, but he seemed to have no plan against lefties, as he walked the two lefty hitters with power (Erik Lis and Chris Parmelee) that he faced. Without much of a changeup (he didn’t throw one at all), he doesn’t have much he can do other than try to get them to chase, it seems.

At age 25, Cox looks like minor league filler.

Che-Hsuan Lin, Portland, OF–Lin didn’t show the tremendous speed usually associated with leadoff batters, but he showed some gap pop and a good knowledge of the strike zone. He also showed good range in center.

Nate Spears, Portland, 2B–Spears had three hits in the game, and all three were singles, but he easily could’ve been 4-for-5 with two doubles, as his first AB saw him line out to deep right-center and his second saw him rip one off the right field wall and carom back too fast for him to get to second. He showed a patient approach at the plate and good defense and instincts at second base.

Ray Chang, Portland, 3B–Chang didn’t look great. He hits from an open stance that left him lunging at a few balls away. He doubled off of DeVries, but that’s not saying much. Chang did a nice job working the count, though. He didn’t see much action defensively, so I can’t really evaluate that. He’s 26, though, and I don’t see him as a dominant enough player to warrant much attention given his age.

Luis Exposito, Portland, C–Exposito showed good balance in his stance. He has a bit of a tendency to swing from his heels, but he’s a pretty selective hitter, so it doesn’t get him into too much trouble. The Rock Cats looked afraid of his arm from behind the plate all night, as even the speedier runners were staying put on 3-2 counts with fewer than two outs. Exposito did a nice job blocking the errant breaking balls from the three pitchers he caught.

Anthony Rizzo, Portland, 1B–Rizzo’s body, stance, and swing evoke Adam LaRoche, as he stands way back in the batter’s box, slightly open, and completely upright. His swing has some uppercut action to it, but like Lis, he knows his limitations and doesn’t overswing. He showed considerable raw power and just missed an opposite-field grand slam into the wind. Rizzo looked like a very poor runner and didn’t look very good at first base with either his range or his hands, so he’ll need to hit to get to Boston.

Yamaico Navarro, Portland, SS–Navarro just oozes athleticism, but he looked to be on autopilot at times, making a really bad error in the field and not being the most high-energy guy on the bases. He looked locked in in the box, though, showing a better approach than most 22-year-old Dominicans, as well as a good swing that makes good use of his lower body. Navarro also looked to have more pop than you’d expect from a 5’11″ shortstop, maybe 15-HR power.

Chih-Hsien Chiang, Portland, OF–Like most of the Portland hitters, Chiang made the opposing pitchers work, and was tough to strike out. Unlike the six hitters in front of him, though, he didn’t show much in the way of power, so while he worked some deep counts, he didn’t do much with them, other than hit one double. He did stand out in the outfield, and covered a ridiculous amount of ground to make a sensational headfirst diving catch in right-center to rob opposing catcher Jair Fernandez of an extra-base hit right after Singleton launched his homer.

There were a few other batters in the game, but they didn’t stand out enough to really warrant much mention. I hope you enjoyed the scouting reports and found them informative.

Tags: Anthony Rizzo Ben Revere Boston Red Sox Bryson Cox Casey Kelly Che-Hsuan Lin Chih-Hsien Chiang Chris Cates Cole DeVries Deolis Guerra Erik Lis Joe Benson Luis Exposito Matt Williams Michael Allen Minnesota Twins Nate Spears Ray Chang Santo Luis Steve Singleton Yamaico Navarro Yancarlos Ortiz

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